Archive for the ‘downstairs’ Category

fun with gadgets

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Welcome back to GadgetTime with David! In today’s installment, he shows us how to avoid what could be a big project.


This looks like a regular light switch…

light switch




















But underneath it hides a secret: It’s actually a wireless switch that can be added anywhere you want to control a light but don’t want to go to the trouble or expense of running wires in the walls. Take a peek under the faceplate…

light switch with a secret




















Just replace an existing switch with this special receiver  switch and Bob’s your uncle…





















In my case, I wanted to be able to switch the garage lights on and off when coming and going via the roll-up doors, but the only switch was across the garage by the door into the house. After installation, the two switches are now about 18′ apart with lots of metal stuff between them. I had to unwrap that black wire that loops around the toggle above (it’s an antenna) in order for them to communicate better. That little switch to the right of the toggle turns the receiver on and off, if for some reason you don’t want the remote switch to control the light.

The receiver and remote switch are available as a set, and additional remote switches and outlets are available. There are several channels to choose from (my switches both use channel E) — you can use accessories on the same channel and control them all with one switch or choose different channels to control several things independently in the same room.

This one is a Zenith model 6133. It works with fluorescent tube lights but not with compact fluorescents, not sure why. It does buzz a bit (maybe that will go away over time). A pretty cool system that only took 15 minutes to install vs. an hour or two of cutting drying, running wires inside the wall and then patching the drywall. You know I love that.


the dust is flying

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Literally. Flying. Before I go any further, let me note that February 1 was the one-year anniversary of the permit that gave us the green light on our remodel…





















We’re running out of window space.

So, about the dust. Two crews working today. David and Joe are prepping for the install of the deck ledger board

david and joe prepping for the deck ledger board




















That should be done sometime after lunch and perhaps the siding will start to go up? Drilling holes through the insulation and into the wood behind it is definitely dusty.

Now that the walls are closed up downstairs, a plastering crew is busy making them look absolutely impeccable. Installing corner bead, taping, lathering on the drywall compound…

prepping the walls




















Oh, and sanding. Dusty.

More on the progress of both crews later.

oh the horror

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Joe, don’t go into the light!

joe, don’t go into the light!




















David, look out for the people under the stairs!

david trapped under the stairs




















Or you might call this entry Insulating and Sheetrocking in all the Hard Places You’ve Been Avoiding.

fisheye! fisheye!

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The sheetrock saga continues but it’s closing in on the end. Today the QuietRock got sliced and diced some more…

trimming the QuietRock




















The inset that will house the future desk and built-ins is done now…

desk area sheetrocked




















See that pillar wall there with the boards leaning up against it? Can I just quickly remind you that this was the spot where the new concrete and new column went in last spring?

Just behind that, the wet bar is fully clad now. As are all the living area walls. The only bits remaining are in the bathroom and under the stairs.

Which leads us to this:  fisheye views of downstairs…

fisheye view 1




















fisheye view 2




















I got David this awesome olloclip for Christmas — it’s has quick-connect fisheye, wide-angle and macro lenses for iPhone 4 and 4S. So fun!


almost over the wall

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Hard to believe but it’s a balmy 52 degrees out in January (the snow is melting like mad) and sheetrocking of the walls downstairs should be done today!

The bathroom actually looks like a room now. Remember what it looked like just a few days ago? The short hallway you enter to get to it is almost done…

hallway to bathroom




















To the left you can just begin picture the future wet bar in the alcove…

alcove for the wetbar




















And now there’s the actual doorway to the bathroom instead of just framing…

bathroom doorway




















On the left side of the doorway there’s slot to tuck in a pocket door…

space for bathroom pocket door




















Since it’s a small bathroom we wanted as much usable space as possible. A swinging door just didn’t make sense in here.

Step inside and you’ll see the entry wall is sheetrocked now…

bathroom entry wall




















The bathroom wall adjacent to the shower (that’s the shower in the shadows on the right) is also sheetrocked…

bathroom wall adjacent to shower




















More to come. In the meantime, David and Joe are busy trimming and fitting and pounding away…

david finishing up a wall




















Lookin’ good, boys!


more more more!

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Sheetrock, that is. This time for the walls. Two separate loads arrived…

more sheetrock arrives



















even more sheetrock arrives




















The boys are just about done QuietRocking the ceiling downstairs…

ceiling done in the bathroom




















That’s the bathroom —  the ceiling got insulated only yesterday. I’m liking this pace. All that sheetrock-in-waiting means walls will be next. Yay!

downstairs check-in

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

So what’s up down? Well, David and Joe have been busy since their last round of ceiling-up-putting with final prep for closing up the walls and ceiling.  Tell us all about it, David…


The hallway got its energy-efficient, eco-conscious makeover. Now fully denimated and insulated…

insulation down the hallway




















That ridiculously frigid storage area under the stairs got the same treatment…

insulation under the stairs




















And the bathroom will now be much warmer and cozier, too…

insulation in the bathroom ceiling




















Including the shower…

insulation over the shower




















[The concrete foundation wall was insulated earlier with 3″ EPS — the floor was also insulated, so it will definitely be more snug in here even after we tile. Gyp board (sheetrock) is the next step.]

Our electrician got all the new wiring roughed in downstairs — we passed inspection, which is why Joe and I are able to button things up. Our old electrical panel was code-compliant in 1971 but had since become outdated with a grounding system no longer acceptable. So we now have a nice shiny new 100-amp box.

All electrical boxes and ceiling lights are getting special soundproofing. Heavy putty pads are wrapped around them which block air (and noise) from getting through all the little holes and openings. The pads also add mass to the boxes so they won’t vibrate and transmit sound…

ceiling light can with insulating pad




















This thing that looks like a boring old light is actually going to become a smoke and CO2 detector…

smoke/co detector












To complete the soundproofing, the gap between the detector’s electrical box and ceiling gyp board will be filled with non-hardening acoustical caulk. The box itself will be wired to another one by the upstairs bedrooms and to a heat sensor in the garage. If one unit is triggered all three will sound the alarm, giving us the best chance to get out and get the fire department here.

All pipe and wire penetrations are getting sealed against air and noise passage as well as against fire. Special fire-rated caulk first, then expanding foam where appropriate…

fire-rated caulk seals up the penetrations




















Last minute additions to the A/V network: more smurf tube. One run from the desk area to the stereo cabinet to get digital music from the computer to the DAC, and a video cable to allow use of the TV as a monitor. Mmmmmm,  50” internets…

smurf tube for running cable and wires




















The other run goes from behind the TV to the future home of the upstairs stereo to allow for AM/FM and TV signal wires…

smurf tube thru the ceiling




















Someday soon we’re going to put antennas on the roof. That way we’ll be able to pull in distant radio stations and if the cable ever goes out we’ll still be able to get local TV channels.


yeah, i said butt splice

Monday, January 9th, 2012

David will now pick up where I left off last week.


So Joe and I got a bunch of gyp board (aka sheetrock or drywall) hung on the downstairs ceiling. As Brook pointed out, it’s a ⅝”-thick product called QuietRock. I chose it specifically for its soundproofing, noise-reducing qualities as the downstairs will eventually be our entertainment area. We don’t want to hear action movie blasts and techno beats through the floor upstairs.

Quietrock is made up of (from front to back): paper, ⅜” gypsum, a layer of a non-hardening viscoelastic glue, ¼” gypsum and paper. It’s still a Type-X fire-rated product but has much better sound dampening characteristics than standard ⅝” gyp board. It also differs from standard sheetrock in having a paper-wrapped long edge which is not removed upon installation….

paper edge on short side




















No matter what kind of gyp board you use, there’s a trick to getting a really flat wall or ceiling with it. The long edges come from the factory with a taper that allows for the thickness of the joint compound and tape you’re going to add, so that the separate pieces of gyp board become one monolithic, smooth mass. But the short edges have no taper and if left to their own device will make a visible hump when taped. You see this all the time. Here’s a typical wall in our house…

bad tape job




















The solution, if you plan ahead, is to buy one of several products that screw to the back of the adjoining pieces to pull their edges into a taper. Failing that foresight (ahem, I did it again), you can make your own butt splice —  that’s what Joe and I did. Butt splice: splice the gyp boards together with another board behind the gap where they butt up against each other.

To make the butt splice, first I picked up  1/16″ mat board at my local art shop. Then I cut it into 1″ strips and stapled it to plywood planks (same thickness as the drywall, sized 9-1/4″ wide x an inch shorter than the length of the joint) along both long edges…

mat board stapled to plywood




















As each sheet of QuietRock went up, we screwed the finished splices to the backside like so…

ceiling detail shot




















ceiling detail shot 2




















As the two pieces of gyp board are screwed to the plywood along their edges, they flex upwards slightly along the screw line…

where boards butt pulls up to a taper




















That creates a tapered edge which will take tape and compound just like a factory taper. Voila! Super smooth ceiling or wall! Tape and compound still to come…

QuietRock all spliced up




















But first, we have to finish the rest of the ceiling and walls.

[FYI, the process we used above is Fine Homebuilding’s butt splice tip in action. Thanks, FH!]


and… ?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

So how’s it going with the sheetrock installation today? David can give you the pro’s point of view in another post. I just want to show you how quickly the construction zone is starting to look pulled together.

This was the scene this morning…

this morning




















Then the first sheet of Quietrock went up…

quietrock on ceiling




















Followed by sharp objects cutting into sheet goods…

cutting the second sheet




















And another sheet went up…

another sheet goes up




















And then another…

and then another




















And so on, with tools and such…

tools and such




















And then lo and behold, it suddenly looks like a ceiling!

yup looks like a ceiling




















There was more to it than that, of course. The Magic Man can fill you in on the construction details. The Layman-type Girl (that’s me), is pleased. Thanks, Joe and David!

it’s here! it’s here!

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The QuietRock drywall from Acoustical Supplies, she has arrived…





















The boys were halfway through unloading when I shot that. Goes up tomorrow. I have it from credible sources that today was all about prep.